The ever changing landscape for a family lawyer

When I think I’m starting to get comfortable in my role as a family lawyer (but should you ever be comfortable?) then boom (!) another process comes into play to keep me on my toes.

Resolution Together (RT) is a model that most family lawyers will now be familiar with. If not, you need to be. It is a way of working that allows lawyers to work with and advise couples jointly including providing appropriate legal advice, through a divorce, or separation and/or to advise in relation to arrangements for the children.

Why do we need this? Will it work? Is there room for another model? I too have many questions, and perhaps even more so now I have completed my training, not because the training wasn’t helpful, it was invaluable and expertly delivered, but because I now have another hat in the family lawyer wardrobe to choose from and decide whether it’s appropriate to wear today.

Resolution have provided excellent material on RT should you wish to read it, and I encourage you to do so, and so I will say no more on the model itself but more about what is highlighted for me as a family lawyer.

We cannot be complacent. We need to be ahead of the curve don’t we, and not behind. Social trends are ever changing, people’s wish to resolve matters are changing and we as family lawyers need to keep up. Will our practice become stagnant if there is a social push for reaching a resolution in this way, and we are not assisting clients to achieve this?

We are, or at least we all should be, comfortable with out of Court resolution – lawyer negotiation, mediation, a hybrid model of the two, collaborative, round table meeting, early neutral evaluation, arbitration, private FDRs etc, and knowing when to highlight these models to our clients and how to consider which model is appropriate and why. Clients will now have this expectation of us. We must be thinking out of the box and providing a holistic, well rounded service to our clients.

Clients have the option to file a joint divorce application, we’re now comfortable with this, and so why do we have so much fear as family lawyers about clients jointly instructing us to resolve everything else this way?

For me, it goes against the grain of how I was trained. You always only act for one client, and you don’t question that. But why not?

I have had to undertake a completely different mind switch in how I will now have to approach my questioning, information gathering, listening, understanding, safeguarding, to name a few techniques.

For me, this is an exciting time to be a family lawyer, but it highlights what I have addressed in my previous articles. You need to be part of an understanding and supportive firm, one which is open to change, to be ahead of the curve, have supportive and experienced colleagues around you, not just experienced in law, but the life skills you need to manage this profession, to have your black book of trusted professional contacts and to set yourself boundaries and have an outlet, so you can support yourself when dealing with vulnerable clients.

I will no longer refer to commonly named ‘soft skills’ as such going forward. They are not soft, they are fundamental, vital in fact to being a good family lawyer. To apply the law to your client(s) case is becoming the easier aspect of the job. Oh how I would have never believed that a few years ago! I will now call the ‘soft skills’ the essential skills in how to become the best family lawyer you can be.

Written by Lisa Payne at Wilsons Solicitors


2 Responses

  1. You are one of the few lawyers to think like this. It means putting the whole family’s welfare first not just a big win for one. Well done for putting this information out there. I wish you well in the future 🙏

    1. Thank you very much, Colette, for not only taking the time to read this but for your kind comment. I feel very strongly about how my advice and approach to resolution impacts on the whole family.

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